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04/15/2014 10:32 am ET Updated Apr 15, 2014

Eckhart Tolle Explains Why People Act Shy And What They're Really Afraid Of (VIDEO)

Shy people have different ways of explaining their reserved personality. Some, for example, describe themselves as introverted, while others say they simply prefer to do more listening than talking. Regardless of the reason, spiritual teacher and A New Earth author Eckhart Tolle says that shyness actually masks a vulnerability lying beneath the surface.

For years, Tolle has written and talked about the difference between what we see on the surface and what really lies within. He describes this outer mask as the "ego," the sense of identity that we have and wear externally like armor. Within this definition of ego is an element of separation between yourself and the people around you. Or, as Tolle puts it, "the ego likes to emphasize the 'otherness' of others."

Shy people are no exception, Tolle tells Oprah on an episode of "Oprah and Eckhart Tolle: A New Earth." In fact, Tolle surprises Oprah when he states that shy people are acting out of their egos just as much as overly confident people are.

"If you're shy, then what you fear is to be found wanting," Tolle says. "You're afraid of the disapproval or the criticism, [which] would represent an injury of your... sense of self, which is the ego."

Tolle continues with an example of the inner monologue within a shy person. "'The image I have of myself as a very capable person... if I encounter criticism, the ego immediately will be hurt,'" he says. "So, a shy person would not dare say anything because they're afraid of ego-loss."

At first, people tend to misinterpret this shyness. "Sometimes that's mistaken for an ego-less person, a person who's very meek. It's not," Tolle explains. "Deep down, inside the shy person... there's the desire, the unexpressed desire, to be superior."

Also in during the interview, Tolle reveals the underlying fear of overly confident people and what they are trying to compensate for with their big personalities.

"Oprah and Eckhart Tolle: A New Earth" airs Sunday, April 20, at 12 p.m. ET on OWN.

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